“Gran Torino” & “When Rich came to Sunday dinner”

This week we worked with the following competency goal:

Using at least two of the English language literary texts or films you have studied in your English course this year, write a text in which you compare how they present different cultures and what they teach us about these cultures.

Guess what I’m going to do in this post..

Today I’m comparing the movie Gran Torino & the excerpt “When Rich came to Sunday dinner” from the book Joy Lock Club by Amy Tan.

Gran Torino is a movie about a grumpy old man, Walt Kowalski, who lives next door to a Hmong family. Their son, Thao, gets in trouble with his cousin’s gang, and Walt helps this poor kid, after Thao tries to steal his car under solicitation by his cousin. Walt gets honoured by the Hmong community after he made them go away when they tried to get Thao to steal Walt’s GT (once more..). They bring him food and put it on his front porch.

The excerpt “When Rich came to Sunday dinner” is about a Chinese woman who’s marrying Rich, a non Chinese man. After they’d been to her aunt, Auntie Su, and had a nice dinner there, she’s invited to her mother’s – she’s allowed to bring a friend, of course she brings Rich. While there she’s supposed to tell her parents that she’s going to marry Rich. Unfortunately she doesn’t find the right time to say it. That they were together were almost an “elephant in the room”-situation. The mother doesn’t seem too happy that they’re together. It doesn’t help that Rich doesn’t show what’s considered good manners during the dinner..
What I want to point out from this short excerpt is the following sentence: “I knew she would do this, because cooking was how my mother expressed her love, her pride, her power, her proof that she knew more than Auntie Su.”

Cooking. It’s a great way to show someone how much you care, appreciate or love someone, I think however, that it’s something you do more in some cultures than in others. The way Walt react to the Hmong people bringing him food, it seems that no one has ever brought him food that way before – a sign that it’s not something that’s considered normal in the States. In the communities where the Hmong people lives that could be something you see more off. In the excerpt the mother is going to express her love (her pride, her power & her proof) for her husband, children & future son-in-law. And despite the fact that the dinner doesn’t go as planned for Rich and his future wife the mother shows her love through the dinner making. That is something you see more of in the western cultures as well – mother and fathers taking the kids to their grandmother & granddad.

Another thing I want to point out is that in both the movie and the excerpt they touch the subject about expectancy. The woman in “When Rich came to Sunday dinner” is expected to marry a Chinese man, the culture expects that. The same in Gran Torino, Thao is expected to be something he’s not – when it’s pointed out that he’s too womanly, I think it’s more that he’s a very nice guy – but that’s not how they think of it. He’s doing something that’s considered a woman’s job. In reality it’s really not – it’s just that a woman is expected to do the activities not the man. Gender equality – it’s not there yet.

From what I can gather sometimes your life is managed not by you, but by the community and society around you. Even though you think you’re doing what you would’ve done anyways it could just be that the thing you’re doing is actually being decided for you, you just don’t see it.

And as always, thanks for reading.

You can buy Amy Tan’s book here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Joy-Luck-Club-Amy/dp/0143038095/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1384089180&sr=8-1&keywords=Joy+Lock+Club

And get Gran Torino on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/gran-torino/id304298150

 

 

  • Ann S. Michaelsen

    That was quite interesting that you found both food and expectancies as common topics in both the short story and the movie. I think you are right in saying that food is very important in the Chinese and Hmong culture. That says a lot since food is pretty important in the US too, people always bring food when visiting someone who is sick or at funerals for instance. But not the same way as the other cultures that were depicted here. And I agree with your description of Thao, a polite young man who wants to do well for himself